Saturday, December 31, 2011

The End of 2011:

As usual, I read my "yearly horoscope" for the coming year. It is sort of a joke for me, because I always like to print one out and see how much goes according to the horoscope and how much doesn't come true. This year, two that I came across said that 2012 will be a year of pain and loss for me. Great. As if I am not already really acquainted with those states.

This year--2011--has been really hard. I have lost. I have felt pain. A lot of it. People and pets have died. Good friends are experiencing illness. My town was half destroyed by a tornado and many lost their lives. My dad's heart condition isn't great. Etc. Etc. Etc. The list could go on and on. So, the odds of me experiencing pain and loss in 2012 are pretty damn good.

This last week and a half has been pretty devastating on its own. A family member died. A friend was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Another family member may be diagnosed with cancer (added to the two who already have it). My mom is having some issues, too, and while there isn't any reason to think that the issues are serious or life threatening, well, I am tense. I have gone through so much loss and watched so many people get sick that each time I hear even the supposition that something is wrong, I freak out. I am so tired--tired of watching, losing people, feeling like I can't breathe. I am sick of it. But there isn't anything I can do to stop it. Each time I lose it, I keep reminding myself that people have been through much worse than I have. I try to remind myself of holocaust survivors and how many of them lost entire families and suffered untold torturing ordeals. And, yes. I know that nothing I am going through even remotely compares to that. It is just a testament to the amazing strength of the human spirit and it inspires me.

The only bright moment in this whole "vacation" has been a reading experience. During the break, I have been reading the Hunger Games trilogy. I highly recommend it. I love Katniss, and she is a character that is giving me a sense of strength right now.

I know these books are written for teens, but they are so full of ideas and everything wonderful about literature. A friend who works at Books-A-Million recommended them to me, and I am forever grateful...because they really are some of what has made this break bearable.

As for The Hunger Games:


I have to say that most of the way through this book I was only mildly impressed. Yes, I kept reading because the events are like a horrible accident that you can't pull your eyes away from, but with the exception of a few moments...well, I could take it or leave it. I wasn't dying to find out what happened next or anything...UNTIL I READ THE LAST FEW CHAPTERS. Wow. The last bit made me love it and made me want to read the second book.

I won't spoil the plot for you. You can get a great idea of what is taking place by reading the back of the book or inside jacket description. But...WOW.

The second book in the trilogy is Catching Fire:


I am only in the middle of the third book right now, but so far Catching Fire is my favorite. My reasons for liking it boil down to my fascination of character exploration. There is one moment though--passable for many, probably--that made this the best book of the series for me. I fell in love with Katniss's character in this one, and I really identified with her in this book. I will write more about this series once I finish it, but I highly recommend that everyone read them. You won't regret it.

The goal of the Hunger Games is to survive...much like life...and surviving does not mean collapsing into despair, no matter how much I may want to do that sometimes. So, I am leaving the pity party I am enduring at the moment and going to list a few things that were good about 2011:

1. My family and I spent another year together. We have laughed more than we have cried.

2. I got a job. This is no small thing in our world today. I am so grateful to be working for people I respect and like, and I am relieved to be in a job that makes me excited.

3. I survived a tornado. My friends and family survived. So many didn't. I have a roof over my head, clothes, and food.

4. I made significant progress on my dissertation.

5. I wrote another published article.

6. I read lots of really wonderful books.

7. I met wonderful new friends--readers of this blog and friends on Twitter, especially. It has been a lot of fun!

8. I traveled to Myrtle Beach. Though I was sick as a dog for most of it, I still managed to successfully deliver a conference paper.

9. I have been able to spend a lot of time with really wonderful friends.

10. I am still breathing.

But the most joyous event of 2011? The birth of Baby Mylee, of course. Here's to the new trio!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

My favorite quote for today:

"Words had magical powers, they could conjure up an entire beautiful lost world--a richly laid Sabbath table, the winsome loveliness of a Jewish girl, the heady aroma of sweet Palestine wine and raisin cake. It could take just one word to make the men turn pale, make them think, cry, laugh; words lashed them, choked them, made them ache and sweat."
--from "The Seventh Well" (a holocaust novel based on true events), by Fred Wander

I love this quote. Sometimes I think that the only real thing we have that lasts is language. Words have power. They make and unmake us. In the end what we say and do--however we express ourselves in verbal language, body language, or any other way--is what we leave behind. We should make everything count.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Prayers Needed

Please pray for/send good thoughts to my dear friend Elizabeth L., who was just diagnosed with terminal cancer. Love, peace, and light, my dear friend.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas Carols that Originated During the Victorian Era...

Oh, yes. It is time for me--once again--to tell you how much the Victorian era still lives! Here is a list of popular carols that were written during the nineteenth-century. Some originated in other languages before being translated into English during the mid to late nineteenth century. Source for more information: Christmas Carols.

1. Angels We Have Heard on High

2. O Holy Night

3. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

4. Good King Wenceslas

5. I Saw Three Ships (origins appear to be unknown, but likely a Victorian carol)

6. It Came Upon a Midnight Clear

7. Oh Little Town of Bethlehem

8. Silent Night (technically, it was written during the Romantic period, but it is nineteenth century)

9. We Three Kings of Orient Are

If you think about it, each of these songs share similarities in their composition. There are repeated elements, and after a while I started being able to guess which ones were written in the nineteenth century. Anyway, I just thought that this was a fun little thing to have on here today, as my Christmas holiday break begins in approximately an hour and a half!! Hooray!

It is the perfect continuation of what I started last night, when I watched A Christmas Carol.

Nothing says Christmas like Scrooge. Long live Dickens!!!!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books I Hope Santa Brings to Me!

Again, today's prompt is brought to us by The Broke and the Bookish!

Well, no one actually buys me books, because they don't know what I have and haven't read. So, if someone gives me something book related, it is usually a gift card! So, I should probably amend my list title to read:

Top Ten Books I Hope to Buy with a Gift Card from Santa:

1. Charles Dickens: The Dickens Bicentenary, 1812-2012. I just saw this on the shelf two days ago!! I want it!

2. Confessions of a Prairie Bitch: How I Survived Nellie Oleson and Learned to Love Being Hated. I have wanted to read this one for a while. Actually, people have said some really good things about it, so I think it would be worth the read!



3. All of Ina Garten's cookbooks.  :)

4. Then Again, by Diane Keaton.

5. Mozart's Last Aria, by Matt Rees.

6. Core: A Romance, by Kassten Alonso.

7. The Accidental Feminist: How Elizabeth Taylor Raised Our Consciousness and We Were Too Distracted by Her Beauty to Notice, by M. G. Lord.


8. Women and Romance: A Reader, ed. Susan Weisser.

9. Becoming Dickens: The Invention of a Novelist, by Robert Douglas-Fairhurst.

10. The Paris Wife, by Paula McLain.

Of course, there are a million other books I want, too! These are just some of the first that came to my mind today. :)

Yes, I'm still here...

...still slacking on the blogging...I know...but I am really hoping to get a lot of things taken care of before my holiday break begins! I want all of the magazine articles through a first round of edits--and I want to finish a complete revision of my third dissertation chapter. Yes, these are lofty goals, but I am determined to do it! So, until later...have fun for me!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Wow

Tonight reminded me why I have been happily single for so long. I like my life drama free! Though my last relationship (over a year ago) had drama at times, at least it wasn't anything like what I witnessed tonight! So happy to be single right now!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Taking a Break

I am taking a short (10 min) break from work right now...I just needed to do something different in the hopes that my concentration will improve! The weather outside: beautiful...sunny...73 degrees...and, yes, it is December! I just feel really restless after such a long year. I haven't really had a true vacation in a long time, so knowing that I will be off starting next Wednesday is making me a little crazy. I am so ready for some down time.

You  know, I am actually okay with the holidays this year. I am feeling a little sad about some things, but overall I am happy that I will be able to enjoy them with the family. I am also a little anxious and irritable right now...again, I think it has to do with knowing a vacation is coming up! I am just ready to relax and read books that I don't have to think about.

Speaking of books: I just published my new "Beyond Retro" column at MyVampFiction.com. I am basically just reviewing a collection of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century vampire stories. If you are interested in horror classics, though, you might enjoy the book I discuss. Also, if you are able, try to donate to the Food Drive!

Well, I guess that is it for now! I need to get back to work--let's just hope that my mind can take it! :)

A new favorite site: Dear Author

I just stumbled across this review site today: Dear Author. It covers many genres, and each review is addressed to the author, something that I think is really helpful and clever. Check it out!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books I Want to Give as Gifts

Again...today's writing prompt is courtesy of The Broke and the Bookish! Check it out!

Top Ten Books I Want To Give As Gifts
(and to who...even if you won't actually give them!)

1. The Secret Garden, by Frances H. Burnett. I would give this to anyone, actually. Still, I guess it is considered a "girl's book," so I would love to give it to Mylee one day. 

2. Augusta Webster's poetry. I gave this to a friend of mine last year, I think. I would probably send it to Jan or Thaao, if I was giving it to someone again.

3. The End of Mr. Y, by Scarlett Thomas. I have no idea who would get this gift...but probably Andy, because he likes the multiverse theory.

4. Nevermore, by Kelly Creagh. I would give this to Savannah, because she would love it!!

5. The Secret History, by Donna Tartt. I would give this to my mom. Now that she has read Anne Rice and loves her, I think that she would probably enjoy this one.

6. Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte. This should just be a required gift to everyone. No one should go through life without having encountered the insanity of Heathcliff and Catherine. "I AM HEATHCLIFF!!"  :)

7. Byron: Life and Legend, by Fiona MacCarthy. Kelly and Vicky Dreiling would definitely get this one. We all need more Byron in our lives.

8. Soulless, by Gail Carriger. I would send this one by priority mail to both Hannah and Claire. Too much Steampunk fun!

9. Jude the Obscure, by Thomas Hardy. I would have to think about this one...it is so dark thath not many would appreciate it...but it is still one of my most favorite books, and someone in my life should read it.

10. Bleak House, by Charles Dickens. Again, Kelly will get this one...but, really, everyone should read it.

Yes. My list has basically turned into "Susie Recommends..."    :)

Monday, December 12, 2011

Favorite Reads of 2011:

Note: some of these weren't published in 2011...I am just giving my favorites!


Favorite nonfiction:


I actually just finished reading Last Days of the Romanovs. Some parts of it were dry, but overall I thought it was a great read.


Favorite Teen/YA:


I loved Nevermore! I really need a sequel to be published...now.


Favorite Mystery:



And Only to Deceive is the first of the Lady Emily mysteries...and I love them. Keep them coming, Tasha Alexander!!


Favorite Romance:


I loved How to Seduce a Scoundrel. This has to be one of the funniest and most engaging romance reads I've had in a long time!


Favorite Historical Fiction:


Again...I can't say enough about Into the Wilderness. It takes place during my favorite era of American history, and it gives me a fun time with a Last of the Mohicans flavor. Excellent book! (note: I wasn't as crazy about the others in the series...)

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Where have I been????

I don't really know, either! Actually, I decided to devote all of my extra time to finishing up the draft of my dissertation chapter. So, I did finish it and sent it off. I don't plan on working over the holidays, but we will see!

Other than that, I am nursing a nasty case of carpel tunnel in my right wrist. I finally broke down and bought a brace, so hopefully it will help. This isn't fun. I've been dealing with it for about a couple of months, and it is getting progressively worse. So, here I am.

So, anyway, I will try to be better about posting this week! I hope everyone is well!

Monday, December 05, 2011

I love this!

Mr. John Thornton's Blog!! Someone has created a blog for North and South's John Thornton. The author of the blog is in character, and it is so much fun!!

Turns out that I unexpectedly jumped the writer's block!

I didn't need to pretend to write to Kelly at all (see post below). For some reason, I just ended up writing a lot this weekend...not enough, but a lot! If I ever do use the "letter" thing, I will post about it. :)

Friday, December 02, 2011

Dissertation Help

I am always on the lookout for good advice about dissertation writing. Even though I am halfway finished, I still need help getting out of the lethargy every now and then. I rediscovered this article today: UNC Dissertation Help. The last time I looked at it was about a year ago, long before I felt the agonies of lethargy. I don't think that I was interested in the hints near the end of the article at the time, but I found a great one during this read. The page says that if you are having problems motivating yourself to write, you should just start writing out your chapter or ideas in a letter to a friend.

I really like this idea, because my friend Kelly is my sounding board. I always work through my best ideas with her, and I can totally see myself getting out of the dissertation funk if I just pretend that I am talking to her. It isn't formal and could be really creative. I have a feeling that I will be testing out this theory tomorrow...so I will let you know how it goes. :)

Thursday, December 01, 2011

PS: My trifle!

I forgot to mention that I made my first trifle this year! I made Paula Deen's "Pumpkin Gingerbread Trifle"...it sounds weird...but it is sooo good. If you make it, get in touch with me first. I read through so many reviews and managed to avoid some common pitfalls. (By the way, the reviewers who advise against making two batches of gingerbread are absolutely correct. It would be too much! Also, make sure you use cook and serve pudding. Use whole milk when you make the pudding!! And most importantly: DON'T BUY 100% PUMPKIN. YOU NEED THE PUMPKIN PIE MIX. THESE ARE TWO VERY DIFFERENT THINGS!! Those who didn't like the recipe used the 100% pumpkin mix...think about it...it has no spices or anything! There are a few other things you should know, too, so if you make it, read reviews or drop me a line!)

NOTE: This is not my trifle. I just put a layer of Cool Whip on top. So good. I also followed the suggestion of a recipe reviewer I saw online. She suggested placing little gingerbread men on top, so I did. It was great!

Anyway, imagine a lighter and milder pumpkin pie taste with the creamy and gooey cake mixture of the trifle. Ahhh. Bliss.

A week ago today, I was preparing for a food coma.

It is hard to believe that Thanksgiving was a week ago! I haven't updated a lot since then, so I thought that this post would serve that purpose.

On Thanksgiving, we did the usual...cook...eat...drink...eat...eat...eat. Of course, there were some great family moments, but I didn't take pictures this year. I probably will take pictures at Christmas, so I will have something to post then, I guess! The cleanup wasn't bad at all, but I crashed after it was all said and done.

As for Black Friday: I don't usually go out that much on Black Friday, but this year I did. You can scroll down and see photos of Melanie and Mylee (and the one of me and Mylee). Mom, dad, and I met Melanie and Mylee for lunch on Friday. It was the first time mom had seen Mylee since she was born, and dad had never seen her! It was a great time. Mylee is such a happy baby, and we loved being with her and Melanie so much.

After lunch, mom and I took dad home, and then we decided to brave the crowds. It was about 1:30 by that time, so it wasn't horrible, but I hate crowds. Over the last few years, mom and I have gone to the mall for a short while on Black Friday just to sit and drink coffee...and people watch. Mom worked in retail for nearly 40 years, so the last thing that she wanted to do after retirement was to go shopping! This year she seemed up for it, though. Our first stop was Target...where it was DEAD by that time of the day. Still, I found the third and last seasons of The Tudors for really cheap, so that made me happy. Then, we went to the mall, where mom finished up her shopping (not much...we went to two stores), and I bought a Christmas/winter dress for Mylee.

Of course, no outing is complete without a trip to the bookstore. So, mom and I made our way over to Barnes and Noble, where she bought a magazine. After dropping off Mylee's dress (I want her to get some use out of it!), we went home. Mom settled in for a nap, but I loaded dad in the car and we headed to Books-a-Million for coffee...where I sent James a lovely photo of Dad. :)

The weekend was to be extra long for me, because I decided to take this past Monday as a vacation day. But Saturday and Sunday were dissertation work days, and Monday was just too busy to do anything (hair appointments, nasty weather, errands to run, etc).

This week has been relatively quiet, but it has been busy. We have been crazy busy at work, and last night I had to drive to Linden, Alabama, to a visitation at their funeral home. So, it is Thursday, and I am exhausted!

Anyway, I hope everyone is well. More later!